American Life in Poetry: Column 629


In last week's column, we inadvertently listed the publisher of Michelle Menting's book, Leaves Surface Like Skin. It should be Terrapin Books, and the copyright date of her poem is 2015.

Surely you've seen those Japanese scroll paintings in which tiny figures trail up the side of an enormous mountain? Here's a poem about one such life by Lucia Cherciu, who lives in Poughkeepsie, New York. She gathers an enormous amount of human experience in these few lines. Her most recent book is Train Ride to Bucharest (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). This poem appeared first in The Broadkill Review.

The New Church

The old cupola glinted above the clouds, shone
among fir trees, but it took him an hour

for the half mile all the way up the hill. As he trailed,
the village passed him by, greeted him,

asked about his health, but everybody hurried
to catch the mass, left him leaning against fences,

measuring the road with the walking stick he sculpted.
He yearned for the day when the new church

would be built—right across the road. Now
it rises above the moon: saints in frescoes

meet the eye, and only the rain has started to cut
through the shingles on the roof of his empty

house. The apple trees have taken over the sky,
sequestered the gate, sidled over the porch.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Lucia Cherciu, “The New Church,” from The Broadkill Review, (Vol. 10, Issue 2, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Lucia Cherciu and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.